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Vera Lynn coffin PA Sgt Todd MoD header2.jpg
PA Gareth Fuller
PA Gareth Fuller
UK News

Dame Vera Lynn's vicar reflects on the day: "it was a real honour to take her service"

by Cara Bentley

The vicar who took Dame Vera Lynn's funeral talks through the day and how her songs played at the service reminded him of heaven. 

Dame Vera Lynn died aged 103 last month and was most well-known for singing 'We'll Meet Again' and for boosting morale among British troops during the Second World War through her music and radio show. 

For decades she lived in Ditchling in East Sussex, where the streets were lined on Friday to watch her coffin pass by. 

 

Reverend David Wallis, the vicar at St Margaret's church in Ditchling, first met her when he moved into the parish and has fond memories of her opening the village fair and attending the church for special services. 

With photographers, spitfires and streets packed with people in red, white and blue, the clegyman who led the proceedings told Premier how the day went from his perspective: "We gathered with the family at Dame Vera's home and I was with them and we we got into the vehicles and it was nice to have a bit of time before this very public ceremony for the family to be together and just to spend some time together in that way to prepare."

"It was remarkable, the streets of Ditchling were absolutely packed full of people. She had a military guard of honour that took her down the high street and we stopped in the high street and a pair of Spitfires flew over three times and then we all got back into the vehicles and the cortege was taken over the Downs and into Brighton and all the way along the road into Brighton there were more and more people who'd waited and waited. Some of them were cheering and clapping, others preferred to bow their heads.

Listen to the full interview here:

 

 

 

"And then when we arrived to the crematorium there was an enormous guard of honour. It was a sight to behold - all three forces and they carried out their duties with such dignity, real care actually, they wanted to get this perfectly right. And they did everything so beautifully."

 

The service, at Woodvale Creamtorium in Brighton, featured songs all recorded by Dame Vera, with her coming in to the song 'Sailing' and ending with her verion of 'My Way'. 

Rev David said her music matched his messgage perfectly: "I was struck when we listened to these pieces of music, how much sense of the hope of heaven there was in so much of what she sang. She sang as an encouragement to those who are going away those who are leaving loved ones, but there was always that great sense of optimism and hope of return and relating that to our hope in heaven was a very natural link."

When asked if he felt daunted by the prospect of leading such a large funeral, he responded: "Actually, I didn't feel a great burden in leading this. It felt a great privilege. It's a real honor to be taking her service. This was a service for her family, and also a service for the nation so I wanted it to be absolutely full of prayer and to be full of the gospel of hope and resurrection and our belief in Jesus."

He added that Dame Vera's own willingness to go to Burma and visit troops thousands of miles away reminded him of how God can use people much more than they imagine: "Dame Vera was their link, their connection with being home, their connection to their loved ones, and she can't have had any idea when she was going out on that journey that she was going to achieve so much she was going to help so many people. 

"But she did it, she felt called to do it, she felt it was her vocation. And it's a reminder to us that we don't necessarily know how God's going to use our offering but if we offer what we can do, if we do it and we do it in faith and trust, it's amazing how God can magnify what we offer."

 

 

Rev David is hopeful that the influence she made on people will carry on in the parish. 

"She encouraged that handing over of the baton to the next generation. She was brilliant with the people of her era and generation but she was also a great encourager so good with young people and encouraged them to have similar values and to contribute to the community. I think her legacy will live on really naturally very easily and when we see glimpses of that happening there will be the opportunity to support that in prayer and to encourage individuals in what they're doing.

Dame Vera Lynn's ashes will be buried next to her husband in St Margaret's church. 

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